Category Archives: Project Management

The “Bottom Line”

A customer’s experience is the MOST important and critical element to a company’s success! The customer experience is not concluded once they buy. It is not an isolated one-time event. Their experience is the sum of all interactions, formed by an organization’s culture and customer contact points. Every interaction influences the customer’s perceptions of the company’s product and/or service. There is no magic formula or checklist to follow. The customer experience consists of every impression and encounter; or someone closely associated with the customer, albeit they are one of the customer’s co-workers, friends or family members. Whether the customer is making a phone call for additional information, scheduling a meeting, or whether your website is easy to navigate, every interaction impacts the customer experience.

Believe it or not, like it or not, the customer experience is the key to your success. Accept, even a percentage of this idea, and this will lead you to look inward at your culture and not on the quarterly finance statements. If the focus is on the bottom line, you’ve missed the point. Keep the focus on the customer.

Consider this. When you have a relationship with someone and believe they care about you, you are more likely to trust them, follow their guidance and communicate with them honestly. When you don’t create this trust, then you risk losing the opportunity to have a new customer, or keeping the ones you have.

Building relationships with customers is the single most important thing you can do in determining how your product and/or service will be accepted, used and adopted. The focus must be on building a relationship with every customer, every time. (And yes, the bottom line will benefit as well.)

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Promises Kept – Creating Good Surveys

SurveyHow do you know your product, your program or your service is delivering on the promises you made to your customers? Your sales people say the offering is great, your literature enforces that message and your customer buys, however, what about buyer’s remorse, or the following days, weeks, months and years; are your customer’s still happy about the promise made?

One way to find the answer to these questions is to create a “good” survey; by the way, the other is to pick up the phone or to visit in person and ask.

This short article provides 10 good keys guaranteed to deliver a really good survey.

  • Develop a set of objectives“what do you want to know”. So, many organizations and people skip this step. They immediately jump in and begin to consider the questions they want to ask.
  • Clearly state the intentions of the survey. It is important to communicate the intentions of the survey to both those taking the survey and to those asking to have the survey created.
  • Present surveys in an organized layout, include instructions and keep it short. Layout, layout, layout, we, the human race, think visually first! So, be sure the layout is inviting. (Right-side of the brain thing)
  • Structure survey based on the information you are looking to capture. Order and/or group the questions. If you took care of the layout, then this addresses the left side of the brain.
  • Use different question types (“fixed responses” and “open”). Mix it up. You know, as a consumer of digital information we have a very short intention span.
  • Ask one question at a time (no “double” questions). Be precise with your questions.
  • Don’t ask for personal information. This is off limits on many levels.
  • Do not bias your questions. Do you really want to know what your customers are thinking; then be sure to objectively present your questions.
  • Ask questions that can be answered. Remember K.I.S.S.?
  • Before using survey review against your objectives and test. Now, before you hit the publish or print button – review!

Follow these steps and you WILL have a good survey. Good luck on finding out if your customers think you kept your promises.

 

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Why are we doing this?

GoalsThe critical first step in the life of a program is the establishment of objectives. By answering the question, “why are we doing this” provides all stakeholders associated with the program a clearly defined focus. This focus will significantly increase the chances for success.

The challenge in creating objectives is that this activity mandates that a very few sentences need to reflect the commitment and direction of the entire organization.

The best practice for completing a objectives defining milestone is to make the process iterative so that all constituents have had the opportunity to contribute and have their voices heard.

Objectives definition is not something you contract out. Yes, a consulting company can assist with facilitating the process; however, the organization must take an active role in the process. It is only through this active engagement will the organization adopt and take ownership.

The simple view of the process to define program objectives is:

  1. Start at the top – The organization’s President or CEO (pick one) and/or program sponsor (senior level manager) says, “I want….” (fill in the blank). Input from this level of management says, “We know of the work and we approve”. Also, this input will shape and provide guidance to the next steps.
  2. Next – Once step one is achieved, the next level of management needs to be engaged and given the opportunity to respond and/or contribute. From the program manager’s perspective, getting this level of contribution adds further validation for the program. Additionally, step one should reflect the view of how the program’s objectives align to corporate level objectives. (Pity the manager at this level who adds details that do not align to corporate goals; a sure way to lose funding when things get tight.)The easiest way to solicit input from this level of management is to start your correspondence with, “From the desk of [insert President/CEO’s name here], the following program is very important to [organization name here]. We believe that by achieving the following [President/CEO input here], [organization name here] will…”Included in this communication will be a detail about the program’s timeline along with a sense of urgency to getting feedback by [insert date].
  3. Thank you! (Review) – Once you have received key stakeholder information and have crafted a short, precise list of objectives you will want to send a ‘thank you’ communication. This correspondence will include the program’s objectives. At this time, anyone who is not aligned with what you have listed will raise a question or ask for clarification. This is great! This shows that they are interested in this work and want to ensure their interests are recognized in the list of objectives. Again, thank them for their input and inform them that you are scheduling a meeting to review and finalize. (Be sure to say whose coming.)
  4. Meeting (Review) – Invite all key stakeholders, and work hard to get all (most) of them to accept and attend. Prepare the program overview and state clearly that the goal is to finalize the objectives for the program to ensure they are aligned with [insert President/CEO’s name here] and [organization name here]. Get ready for some good dialog as each word is dissected. Once you near the end of this effort, you end the meeting by saying that these objectives will be how the program is managed and measured, and you will provide statuses based on this list. Be sure to get everyone’s agreement.

The steps above will greatly enhance your chances of management commitment, provide a focus for the program and act as a foundation when the program encounters business challenges, such as budget, resources and scope.

Why are we doing this?

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Subject Matter Experts (SME) – Tips and Ideas on “Loving” Them

The contribution of Subject Matter Experts, or SMEs can sometimes be critical to the successful completion of a project. Here are some tips and ideas regarding the handling of SMEs:

  1. Immediately recognize the significant impact of how the SME is managed will be on the success of the project in terms of time, cost, and quality.
  2. As early as possible ensure that SMEs is aware of the project’s goals and key milestones. Included in this information will be the amount of time required of the SME.
  3. A goal for the project manager will be to have a mutually-agreed-upon timeline for the SME’s efforts (tasks and/or deliverables).
  4. Understand the SME’s role within their organization and ask whether his or her management understands the time commitment the project will require.
  5. If samples exist, provide these to the SMEs in order to educate him or her on what to expect. The sample can also act as a model or reference.
  6. The project manager should provide an overview of the complexity of the deliverable, the effort, and the importance of input.
  7. Always ask the SME for their reaction to the tasks and/or deliverables and get their assessment for level of effort.
  8. Respect the SME’s time; be prepared with questions and specific discussion points that encourage the SME to participate.
  9. Listen! Listen! Listen! And, then playback to the SME what you heard. This will provide a high-level of credibility to the project and the management of the project.
  10. Provide the SME with all the tools (templates, etc.) to assist the SME with their tasks.
  11. If possible, use a web-based project team site, wiki or document repository as a way to keep the SME well informed of all project phases.
  12. Act fast! Communicate with the primary stakeholder when deadlines change due to SME time constraints.
  13. Respect the SME throughout the project. Highlight to all stakeholders the value and important contributions made by the SME.

Finally, the “love” you give them depends on you.

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The “Two Step”

This short piece presents a concise approach to how prominent organizations can manage the challenge of enterprise-wide project management.

Companies extend substantial resources (people and time) across important initiatives and then never really know what is happening to their investments, so how do they solve this?

The challenge is that organizations typically align their scarce IT resources within separate teams working on different projects, leaving each to roll up their reports. This “roll-up” activity usually consumes additional time by an individual, or group of individuals, consolidating the information and putting into a singular, readable format. Each of these roll-ups may be evaluating and identifying statuses that the project manager or sponsor believes is important (which might be very true) to the initiative. But, does this consolidated report address the corporation’s needs? Does an executive quickly recognize the information and can make decisions? How does an organization address these questions?

The solution is:

Get the organization to accept the concept and structure of a Project Management Office (PMO).

Once this decision is made the company can look internally to assign this responsibility to a resource or hire a company with PMO experience. If a company opts for the former, this individual should be experienced in not only the benefits of a PMO but must be equally strong in change-management. Otherwise, look for a company with this experience along with familiarity within their industry. Of additional significance will be that an outside company be able to present themselves with an ability to align to the company’s culture.

The next step, whether by the individual or the hired company, will involve rigorous observation and analysis. The objective is to build a uniform platform tailored to meet the organization’s needs. Once the platform is constructed, a project dashboard is created. This dashboard will enable management to quickly measure the health of any single project, as well as the cumulative effect to the organization. The most notable items in most dashboards look to address are costs and time. Beyond these an organization  can look to benefit from specific key indicators in the areas of budgets, vendors, team skills, scope, etc. With this view, the management team can quickly identify where and why a project might be off target and make necessary adjustments. This new standard within the company can, and should be applied to all projects regardless of size and scope.

The final element to internalize is to remain committed to this new paradigm and this involves change (and people and organizations do not typically embrace change). Thus, the PMO must have the skills and experiences to be and deliver on the role of a change agent.

So, how do companies know what is happening with their investments across projects?

  1. Implement a PMO
  2. Adopt and commit to this new model

Wasn’t that easy?

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